The opioid crisis has continually spread throughout the United States in recent years becoming an epidemic. One of the many detrimental affects of this type of drug abuse is believed to be serious birth defects. There has been a shocking increase of babies being born with their intestines outside of their body due to a hole in the abdominal wall. The condition can usually be corrected through surgery, but the child is still at risk of dangerous side effects later in life, according to LiveScience.
A January report published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention examines this condition, known as gastroschisis. Typically, the cause of this condition is unknown, although it does tend to be higher in births involving younger mothers. Doctors say that although surgery shortly after birth can put the intestines back inside the body, the child might experience problems with eating and digestion.
The report stated that the number of cases of gastroschisis in the United States increased from 2 cases per 10,000 live births from 2006 to 2010, to 4.5 cases per 10,000 live births in 2011 to 2015. The number is especially high in states statistically higher in prescription opioid use. In addition, these cases are no longer occurring just with young mothers but those in their 20s and 30s as well. Babies born with the condition often spend months in the neonatal intensive care unit without functioning bowels.
Dr. Saima Aftab, medical director of the Fetal Care Center at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami finds these statistics very concerning. Although it is difficult to prove opioid use during pregnancy as the direct cause of this condition, it is now being looked at as a possible link in current cases. In the last six months alone, Dr. Aftab has noticed a heightened number of gastroschisis cases just in her hospital’s fetal care program. The most frightening part of the condition is that there are still many unanswered questions about possible causes and prevention. Without more research done on the disorder, doctors are likely to continue to see an influx of gastroschisis patients in their hospitals.
Dr. Aftab said that while this new study does cannot properly determine causality, “It does guide where we need to direct our research and how we can answer these questions.”
The report concludes with a note of hope reading, “Having a better understanding of all possible effects of opioid use during pregnancy can help provide evidence-based information to health care providers and women about the potential risks to the developing fetus.”
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